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Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since Biden announced his candidacy in late April, he has taken the top spot in all polls of the sprawling Democratic primary field. Biden's rally on Saturday was his first large-scale campaign rally after doing smaller events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past few weeks. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Neoliberalism Is Dead—But the Neoliberal Elite Didn’t Get the Memo

At a time when neoliberalism is all but dead, Democrats and the corporate media are pushing Joe Biden, a neoliberal with a track record of supporting corporations and financial interests above the people's interests

John Atcheson

The evidence keeps piling up. Neoliberalism is dead.

Just look at the record. Trump—a cross between a carney barker and a conman—beat a neoliberal in 2016. Right-wing populists have scored big in Austria, Italy, Britain, and Brazil since then.  Just recently, Australia’s right-of-center Labor coalition won their election. And in the European Union’s latest contest, Greens won big while right-wing parties made gains in some areas.  All these victories came at the expense of neoliberal centrists.

Bottom line: Across the world, people are finally wising up to the fact that neoliberalism has failed them economically, politically, and environmentally. In fact, the climate crisis—an existential threat to human civilization—is a direct result of the global neoliberal juggernaut that has swept the developed world.  So are the record levels of income and wealth disparity, and the subversion of democracy by a powerful oligarchy—particularly in the US.

The only folks who didn’t get the memo on this appears to be the neoliberal mafia that runs the Democratic Party and the mainstream media here in the US.

At a time when neoliberalism is all but dead, Democrats and the mainstream media are pushing Joe Biden, a neoliberal with a track record of supporting corporations and financial interests above the people’s interests; a man who’s backed by PACs; a man whose small-bore response to the climate crisis amounts to mass genocide for people and the species we share the planet with.

According to The Hill’s media reporter, Joe Concha, Biden is getting more media coverage than all the other Democratic candidates combined, and the month after he announced, in one week alone, Biden was mentioned 1400 times, to 400 for Sanders, who is running second in the polls.  This kind of backing by the party and the press is reminiscent of how they treated Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the results will probably be the same.  It’s hard for a true progressive candidate to compete when the majority of the liberal infrastructure—academia, think tanks, not-for-profits, the press, Wall Street, banks and wealthy backers—line up behind a candidate.

But with people awakening to the consequences of neoliberalism, Biden is the wrong man at the wrong time.

Ryan Cooper summed up his record succinctly, here:

His economic policy career has been one disgrace after the next — sponsoring or voting for multiple rounds of financial deregulation, trade deals that savaged the American manufacturing base, and bankruptcy "reform" that made it much harder to discharge consumer debt (and nearly impossible to get rid of student debt).

Remember Clinton’s rational about “evolving” on issues as she attempted to veer leftward in 2016?  Well, Biden will have to do more than evolve—he’ll have to shed his entire skin like a snake in August. Trump will have a field day running against him.

Meanwhile, Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer and crew are spewing centrist Pablum about capitalism and the power of free markets; they’re embracing austerity (remember Paygo, their very first initiative?); they’re preaching the gospel of small government and small bore policies; they’re eschewing the idea of a bold platform based on sweeping programs designed to meet the immense challenges facing us; they’re refusing to do what must be done to salvage a future worth living for our children and those yet to be borne.

Their entire strategy seems to center on showing everyone how bad Trump is, and the central debate within the party is whether to impeach or not.

People are tired of bickering, however justified.  Impeach or not, Democrats will have to develop a values-based platform that addresses the ills of their neoliberal past if they want to win.  If they don’t do this—and so far, the leadership is fighting hard to avoid doing it—voter turnout will be less than 60 percent, a number that would guarantee a Republican victory. The more they embrace their neoliberal past, the lower the turnout will be; embracing a candidate like Biden or some other centrist will also drive turnout lower.

And yet here they are—holding fast to the philosophy, policies and candidates that turned them into a minority party, even as the world sends them lesson after lesson.

And this is how Trump will win.  The 2020 election will be all about turnout, just as the 2016 election was.  And as I said in the years leading up to 2016, Hillary Clinton would depress turnout and that would enable a Republican victory—even if they ran a buffoon.

Now the Democrats are gearing up for an instant replay, complete with the inevitable surprised forehead slaps and embarrassed pundits asking, on November 4, 2020 “How could this have happened, again?”

How, indeed.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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